Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is a quintessential California coastal city filled with natural wonders and Spanish-style architectural charm. Whether for a fun girls’ trip or a romantic couples’ escape, you can bet Santa Barbara will be the perfect place to spend a relaxing weekend.
Assuming you’re driving up from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is just 1.5-2 hours away. Grab a coffee and some playlists, and start your drive north on the 101 to discover the best of what the West Coast has to offer!
WHERE TO STAY
This beautiful resort is situated right by the ocean and the insta-famous Chromatic Gate, yet is also a short walk or bike ride away from the Santa Barbara Wharf and the historic downtown area of State Street. The service is wonderful, and both the staff and guests are delightful (hard not to be when you’re staying in such a glorious location). Plus, you’ll get a killer view of both the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains!
WHAT TO DO
There’s something to do in Santa Barbara for every kind of traveler, whether you’re feeling adventurous, low-key, sophisticated or earthy! here’s just a few suggestions:
WANDER AROUND DOWNTOWN
From the bustling shops and beautiful Santa Barbara County Courthouse, there’s no shortage of things to do in downtown and you could easily spend a full day exploring.
Try a walking food tour with Taste Santa Barbara to get the best of both worlds and learn all about the sights while eating (and drinking!) your way through the historic region.
Also be sure to check out the Old Mission if you have time, which is in the northern part of town and just four blocks away from State Street!
HIT THE BEACH
Is there a more quintessentially Californian way to spend the day than on a beach in the shade of palm trees rustling in the wind? Santa Barbara has no shortage of lovely beaches, but some local favorites include Arroyo Burro Beach, Leadbetter Beach and East Beach.
RECONNECT WITH NATURE
Everyone talks about seeing Ganna Waleska’s Lotusland (which is of course a must-see), but a hidden gem also exists in Santa Barbara’s Botanic Gardens–which are cheaper to see and just as beautiful. We loved wandering around the grounds here and marveling at how everything in the garden is a native Californian plant!
If you don’t want to visit an enclosed garden, Santa Barbara also has a variety of beautiful hikes. Inspiration Point, Cathedral Peak and the Douglas Family Preserve are just a few!
WHAT TO EAT
It’s difficult to go wrong with food in Santa Barbara, but here are a few of my favorite options:
BREAKFAST/LUNCH (Brunch!): Café Ana
Conveniently located just across the street from the County Courthouse, Café Ana is the perfect place to stop in and grab a bite for breakfast. Or brunch. Or lunch. This sunny café with it’s inviting ambiance and minimalistic decor offers a variety of delicious staples and some unique twists as well, such as their Mediterranean Mezze Breakfast Plate! This was a spot that completely surpassed our expectations, and we thought we ordered too much food…but literally finished everything.
LUNCH/DINNER: Los Arroyos
If you’re looking for delicious local Mexican food that is family-owned and fresh, look no further. This spot is a dream, from delicious tacos and sopes to chocolate-filled churros for dessert!
LATE NIGHT BITES: Bar 29
A local hidden favorite, Bar 29 is very close to the heart of Downtown, yet isn’t terribly crowded. The laid back atmosphere is the perfect place to grab some drinks and delicious poutine.
WINE TASTING: Cebada Wine
If we’re being honest, any winery you stumble into in Santa Barbara will have some lovely tasting options for you. But Cebada is a standout for me due to its proximity to the main strip (it’s very easily accessible from most things you’ll be doing on State Street) and its unique blueberry wine. Yes, you heard correctly! This unique and tasty dessert wine makes Cebada stand out in my memory of all the wine rooms I visited.
Dessert: Renaud’s Patisserie
This shop is famous for its breakfast, but also has positively incredible desserts! Grab a delicious pastry at Renaud’s, and notably, you should get one (or two…or many…) of their famous macarons!